Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

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“A map of us. It’s years in the making, and it’s messy and convoluted, some of it even tragic. But I wouldn’t change the route, because we walked it together, even when we were apart. And the best part about it is that it’s unfinished. Uncertainty isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it can even be filled with extraordinary potential.”

Best YA Contemporary I’ve read all year? Yes. Best YA Contemporary I’ve read ever? Perhaps. From the beautiful romance, to the masterful different family dynamic depictions, to just having a story that made me smile on almost every page. Friends, this made my heart so very happy, and now I just want to read any and everything that Jenn Bennett has written and will write.

Basically, this is a story about two families, who live right next to each other, who also have places of business right next to each other. One family is two sapphic women and their son, who own a sex shop, unapologetically. And the other family owns some sort of health medical practice, where the father is embarrassed to be so close to a sex shop, while the mother and daughter do not care in the slightest. The families used to be close with one another, but a secret falling out has led to them not speaking at all. But, friends, I promise you, this is the best boy next door story I’ve read maybe ever.

Zorie – Obsessed with all things astronomy, and even though she has been isolating herself from her old friends, when she gets the opportunity to go glamping with them, she takes it as an opportunity to shoot the stars and accepts. Zorie is also dealing with a probable secret that her father has been harboring, when she unexpectedly gets some of his mail.

Lennon – Biracial, nerdy, and so very into hiking and camping. And because of a sudden unexpected turn of events, he is also going on the glamping trip, even though him and Zorie haven’t spoken as friends in a long while.

You all probably see where this is going, but what I didn’t see coming is them getting lost in the woods and becoming somewhat dependent on one another to survive. I for sure wouldn’t say this is a survival story, but there are some high risks that really kept me on the edge of my seat.

But obviously romance blooms and I couldn’t get enough of this story. I was honestly swooning, and the chemistry between these two characters was utter perfection while also being so damn believable. Also, this book was so sex positive! And I was completely living for it! Normalize healthy and consensual sex in YA, thank you! And thank you Jen Bennett, because she totally delivered in Starry Eyes.

I also want to touch upon Zorie’s relationship with her stepmother, because it was truly the best adoption relationship I’ve ever read in all my years. Joy was honestly the best side character; she’s Korean, she’s kind, and she’s the mother of my dreams, honestly. No spoilers, but when she told Zorie that she was the reason…. I cried so hard. Blood will only ever just be blood, and blood has nothing to do with who you claim as your parent, and this book honestly is five stars alone because of Joy and Zorie’s relationship. Again, my heart is so very full.

Overall, this book really just brought me so much bliss. It touched upon so many hard-hitting topics, the relationship dynamics were so expertly done, the family (both blood and found) was beyond words perfect, and the romance still has me weak in the knees. Seriously, I know I made this joke 102 times on Booktube, but I want to buy a tent and a rainstorm with Park Jimin. Okay. Pick up this book. Love you all, bye.

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Content and Trigger Warnings: Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), loss of a parents in the past, infidelity of a side character, talk of suicide, homophobia (always in a negative light), and grief depiction.

Blog Tour | Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi

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ARC acquired at Book Expo in exchange for an honest review.

“Trying to get better at the thing you want to be the best at is humiliating.”

Hello to my favorite contemporary of 2019. Friends, this book was so quiet, but so loud, and really impacted me more than any other book I’ve read all year. This is the type of story that makes you want to see the world, the type of story that heals wounds you didn’t know you had, the type of story that makes you feel seen and loved and realize you are worthy of unconditional happiness, and the type of story that will make you want to find that happiness and hold on to it with both hands. I know I probably sound so very cheesy, but this really is the type of book that you close and you just want to be a better person, and want to live a happier life, and it’s a reminder why books truly have the power to change lives. I loved this book with the sum of my being, and I’ll carry it with me and pass it along for the rest of my life.

This is a book that borderlines on Young Adult and New Adult, about two characters who find each other while they are at the crossroads of trying to find themselves, too. They have very different backgrounds, and very different current living situations, but they both bond over the unknown and the bursts of happiness that they feel while communicating with each other.

Pablo Neruda Rind – biracial (Korean and Pakistani), 20, working at a bodega in NYC, was an actual meme and now has a little bit of Instagram success because of it, and is thinking about going back to college after dropping out with a large sum of debt following him.

Leanna Smart – biracial (Mexican and white), 22, childhood star now pop singer, and trying to be happy with the content she is putting out in the world.

And one very late night, while Pablo is working in the bodega, Leanna comes in and their lives change. They are both searching for happiness, in very different ways and very different forms of outlets, but they start to think that maybe they can also find happiness together.

And Mary HK Choi delivers a story that is so beautifully written, so heartfelt, so very real, that I won’t forget it, ever. Some of the themes and discussions in this book are so important and I truly think this story is going to change lives. I feel like I normally only read one book a year that changes my life, and I think that this year’s is without a doubt Permanent Record.

Seeing Pablo question what he wants for his life, while also entering into depression because of this overwhelming debt he has accumulated because of doubt and uncertainty is something that I’ve never read about before. Never has a book really forced me to understand that Americans truly expect seventeen-year-olds and eighteen-year-olds to make choices that will impact them financially (and so many other ways) for the rest of their lives. Graduating college with 100k debt is the reality that so many people in their young twenties have, but so many also have that debt without a degree as well. It’s heartbreaking, truly, that we put this pressure on young adults and that we expect them to know how they want to spend their lives at such a young age, while also feeling that weight from society, from schools, and from their families.

“God, this country. It’s so predatory.”

And people have so many options that don’t involve school. Sometimes people find happiness chasing dreams that don’t require degrees. Sometimes people find happiness becoming celebrities in many different forms. Yes, sometimes people do find happiness with a degree that will help them live the life with the job they want. But sometimes people will find happiness simply by being on the journey of searching for happiness in the first place. There is no wrong way to find happiness, and it can be so very hard to find, but it is always so important that you search for it, because you’re so deserving of it.

I think Pablo and his situation is such a reality for so many. Finding happiness, and determination, and inspiration… it can be so very hard. And Pablo, much like many of us, is someone who doesn’t make it easy. This book, in my eyes, is also a love letter to depression awareness and how depression can come in many forms unknowingly. Pablo’s life and struggle, both academically and with his loved ones, was something so very raw, and I was so easily able to connect with, and I think many others will feel like that too. Because sometimes the weight of other peoples’ expectations can be so very heavy.

“Life isn’t a destination. It’s the continual practice of things that make you wiser and happier.”

This is ownvoices for the Korean representation, but I just want to touch on how I really loved seeing Leanna and Pablo talk about them both being biracial. It was so important and meaningful for me to see characters talk about how they are both of their races, instead of half and half. This seems like such a simple concept, something that should be easy for me to say, “hello, my name is Melanie and I’m Filipino” but it is something that I really struggle with, and I always want to break my racial identity of being Filipino and white up in percentages as a kneejerk reaction when talking about myself. And this small conversation between Pablo and Leanna just really meant so very much to me, and really hit me extremely hard. Also, just seeing Pablo having a tough time not feeling as connected to parts of his identity was really important and moving, too.

And, like always, seeing an older sibling help take care of their younger brother is something that will always resonate with me and inside my heart. Pab’s entire family dynamic really was perfection actually, because I feel like in literature, we either get really horrible parents or really perfect parents; we never really get the messy in between, where parents are supportive and loving but have a hard time showing their love and support.

Overall, I just really loved this book and it means so very much to me. The messages in this book really are life changing and I truly wish I could put this book in everyone’s hands. I feel like, much like Emergency Contact, this could be a polarizing book, but I also think it is a book that is going to touch and impact so many. I know a lot of people probably won’t love the ending, but I truly thought it was perfection and really made this book standout as a true masterpiece. And if you read through this whole review, I hope you know that I appreciate you, and that it is never too late to follow your dreams and find the happiness you deserve. Oh, also, be warned that the mention of all the snacks in this will make you extremely hungry.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and Trigger Warnings: anxiety, debt, the debt crisis, credit debt, bill collectors, talk of sudden death briefly, talk of cancer, minor scene involving childhood cancer and the Make A Wish foundation, depression, codependency, and talk of assault (unwanted touching).


About the Author:

Mary H.K. Choi is a writer for The New York TimesGQWired, and The Atlantic. She has written comics for Marvel and DC, as well as a collection of essays called Oh, Never Mind. Her debut novel Emergency Contact was a New York Times bestseller. She is the host of Hey, Cool Job!, a podcast about jobs and Hey, Cool Life!, a podcast about mental health and creativity. Mary grew up in Hong Kong and Texas and now lives in New York. Follow her on Twitter @ChoitotheWorld.

Blog Tour Schedule:

August 26th – Vicky Who Reads

August 27th – Adventures of a Book Junkie

August 28th – Utopia State of Mind

August 29th – Read by Tiffany

August 30th – Rich in Color

August 31st – Your Tita Kate

September 2nd – Books on Pointe

September 3rd – Andi’s ABCs

September 4th – Book Scents

September 5th – Twirling Pages

September 6th – Bookshelves & Paperbacks

September 9th – YA Bibliophile

September 10th – Mary Had A Little Book Blog

September 11th – Chasing Faerytales

September 12th – Nicole’s Novel Reads

September 13th – Mel to the Any

Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

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“He is my small son”

I’m going to write this review a little differently; instead of telling you the synopsis of this book right away, I’m going to show you the two parts of my heart.

Best Friends & Boy Bands – If you follow me on any social media, you will know that BTS has completely and wholeheartedly taken over my life. The amount of unconditional happiness that I have found within myself because of BTS could be a thesis statement all alone. But the pure joy I feel when I know that I will get to follow and enjoy BTS and everything they give ARMY, along side my best friends? That’s something I don’t have words for, and I don’t think I ever will, but it truly owns half of my heart.

Little Brothers & Video Games – I am very open in many reviews about my little brother being my best friend in this entire world. He always has been, and he always will be. Ever since I graduated college and moved across the country, we have kept our closeness because of video games. Don’t get me wrong, we play them nonstop when we are together, in the same room, too, but it is truly something that I’ve been able to do with him to never make me feel like I’m away from him, and because of this, this combination makes up half of my heart.

Foolish Hearts is a book that made me feel so seen and so very whole, because it combines those two halves of my heart seamlessly. Our main character, Claudia, spends her afternoons playing video games with her siblings and her best friend, not really looking to add any addition people into her life. That is, until the end of this summer, right before school is about to start up, where she has to go to a party where she accidentally overhears two girls break up.

Iris and Paige were the *it* couple at Claudia’s school, but now that they are broken up, Paige gets to still be the beloved, popular one, where Iris looks like the mean and heartless one. And when Iris and Claudia are forced to work together, not once, but twice, Claudia also uncovers Iris’s unconditional love for a boy band. And the start of a beautiful friendship blooms.

Not to get too personal in this review, but I am also pretty open about Jane being the reason that I got into BTS, and even though we were friends before, BTS really made Jane my best friend, and it really changed my life in the best way possible. The Iris and Claudia comparisons were just a little too real, but they were also a little too perfect.

So much more happens in this book, maybe with boys and them entering Claudia’s MMO and making me swoon because I’m nerdy and basic. Maybe with secrets that others were keeping from Claudia. And maybe this entire story is set with the backdrop of a school play. There is a lot to love about Foolish Hearts, but how real it felt to me and my personal experiences was really the brightest and shiniest star.

You can really tell that Emma Mills gets fandom culture. How it is so easy for people to be negative about things that (unharmfully) make people happy. But also how sharing your happiness and love for something with someone else is truly a magical feeling sent from the higher powers. How fetishizing is totally a thing that is very serious and very real, but most of the time fandoms just want to love, support, and bring happiness to the people that bring them happiness. (Protect Park Jimin at all costs!)

Overall, this was just a really personal read to me on a few levels, but I loved it completely with the sum of my being. Also, there is epilepsy rep in this story, too, and I really loved how it was written! This book is really just a love letter to friendships, and I really do feel so soft currently. But if you are into BTS, or any musical group, I really highly recommend this one. I had the goofiest smile on my face while reading this entire book, I swear. It is for sure one of the best things I’ve read all year. And even though this review already feels like a love letter to BTS, I just hope anyone who reads this review finds happiness in things they can love wholeheartedly.

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Content and Trigger Warnings: high risk childbirth, panic attacks, seizure mentions, and talk of past underage drinking.

Buddy read with Jane & Chelsea! ❤

Runaway Girl (Girl, #2) by Tessa Bailey

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1.) Getaway Girl ★★★★

“This is it. This is the kiss I’ll think about for decades to come, maybe longer. I can feel it ruining me with every mash of his lips against mine…”

After me and my friends completely fell in love with Tessa Bailey’s dirty talk, we devoured Getaway Girl in a day and we knew we had to finish off this duology together. These stories are about the aftermath of what happens when a wedding gets called off. In Getaway Girl, we follow the would have been groom, but in Runaway Girl we follow the girl who left him at the altar and fled to start a brand new life in Florida.

Naomi – A woman who has had her life predetermined for her for as long as she can remember. From finishing schools, to the pageant scene, Naomi hasn’t ever been able to do what she wants, only what is expected from her. That is, until she runs away from her wedding at the start of Getaway Girl.

Jason – A man who is trying his best to take care of his little sister, after his parents bailed on them both because of grief. He is also a Special Forces diver, trying to live with his own PTSD from the military.

Birdie – The girl getting coached by Naomi to enter the pageant scene, while also dealing and living with the loss of her sister, and also the star of Halfway Girl! Also, she is diabetic, and I really loved seeing that rep in this story.

And these three characters are intertwined when Birdie needs someone to help her win a pageant and get some closure after losing her twin, who really wanted to win a pageant, and she thinks that she needs the help of Naomi to do! So, this story is all about Naomi’s two months in Florida, and everything that unfolds while the events of Getaway Girl were also taking place.

I just really loved Naomi and I loved seeing her want to live her life for herself and not her family or society’s expectations. I loved watching her come into her own power, with her sex life and her everyday life. And I also really loved how there was no shaming of pageants or making her feel lesser because of her looks or things that brought her joy. I was so scared that it was going to be a storyline, but it wasn’t, it was just accepted and embraced, and I loved it completely.

And if you have been on this wild journey with me and my friends, you will know that we are all literally obsessed with Tessa Bailey’s sex scenes, and Runaway Girl is no different, they are truly unparalleled. They are very dirty and very explicit, so use caution because I know that isn’t for everyone, and that’s valid. But if you do want to venture into something a little steamier, than I can’t recommend Tessa, and everything she’s written, any stronger.

“Understand I want to drink it out of your belly button. Want to warm it on that perfect skin, sip it into my mouth, then let it drip out all over your pussy.”

Overall, I really enjoyed this one, and Tessa Bailey is the queen of dirty talk, without question, but I just didn’t love the end of this one. It’s a trope that a lot of readers don’t like, and I think many people who read my reviews won’t like it either, so use caution! I also didn’t love Jason completely, even if I did love his mouth, just because I’m not the biggest fan of military men, because my dad is a Marine, but we aren’t going to go there and even think about that right now. But I truly did loved the majority of this book, and I can’t wait to read everything by Tessa Bailey.

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Content and Trigger Warnings: talk of loss of a loved one, grief depiction, PTSD depiction, and depression.

Buddy read with Paloma, Chelsea, Jane, & Madalyn! ❤

I read this for SummerAThon! ❤

Getaway Girl (Girl, #1) by Tessa Bailey

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“When I woke up this morning, I didn’t plan on crashing a wedding…”

Hello, my name is Melanie and I am officially obsessed with Tessa Bailey, her characters, and her writing. Me and my friends all recently fell head over heels in love with Fix Her Up , so we knew that we had to continue on and read something else by her! And Getaway Girl was the perfect next pick!

Addison – Left town five years ago and hasn’t looked back, but recently has because of the passing of her grandmother, who also left her home and business to Addison. She is trying to figure out what to do next, but thought it would be okay to sneak into her estranged cousin’s wedding.

Elijah – Has a very powerful family, served three tours overseas with the army, and is soon going to take his fathers place as Mayor. He is rich, and powerful, and ungodly attractive, but that doesn’t mean anything when he is stood up at the altar on this wedding day.

Obviously, Elijah is very much in the spotlight because of his family and his upcoming election, but he escapes the disaster of a wedding in Addison’s car, while she promises him that he can lay low in her not very ordinary apartment. (Friend, you all have no idea how appealing it is to me to picture Addison living in a constantly wintery/Christmas wonderland. I loved this aspect of the book so very much, and I honestly would totally decorate my home for an all year holiday, too.) And both of them truly strike up such a beautiful friendship, that I was swooning instantly. This is like the best friends to lovers in the world.

But we get to see Addison, who is hiding from her family’s past, and Elijah, who is willing to do anything to not put Addison in the spotlight after she saved him that embarrassing day, while they come together and figure out if they want to stay best friends or become something more. All while also trying to figure out if the woman that ran away on her wedding day will ever come back into town, especially if she figures out that her ex-fiancé is maybe being naughty with her cousin who is banished from the family.

“This is what it’s like to have a man obsessed with you. Do you like it?”

Okay, let’s talk about the sex in this book. In Fix Her Up , the male love interest is the dirty talker, while the girl was innocent but very reciprocative, but in Getaway Girl, Addison truly gives Elijah a run for his money. Her mouth is so beautifully filthy, and the things that she did with it will truly keep me up at night in the best way possible. This author is truly not afraid to go there, and me and my dirty friends very much appreciate it. From the one-liners, the one-pagers, the entire book, it was all so sexy and I truly think Tessa Bailey is just on another tier in the romance genre right now.

“You own this city now, Mr. Mayor. Right now, that includes what’s under my dress.”

Yet, it was also so damn romantic. And I loved seeing both of these characters carve out the future that they truly want, instead of letting their pasts control them. And I honestly think I could read ten more books starring these two, and I wouldn’t get bored or be completely satisfied.

The only thing that I’ve come to realize with Tessa Bailey is that she writes very abrupt endings. I think going forward this is something that I’m just going to prepare myself for, but this ending in particular felt so quick and I was left feeling not 100% satisfied. Even though I still completely recommend this story with 100% of my heart.

Overall, I really loved this book. From the characters, to the setting, to the atmosphere, to the mind-explosive sex scenes, it was so damn good. Again, I just recommend you all to pick up something by Tessa Bailey if you’re looking for some sexy reading in your life. Also, me and my friends have no chill and we already read Runaway Girl, which is book two in this duology!

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Content and Trigger Warnings: talk of loss of a loved one, talk of infidelity in the past (not the main characters), and abandonment.

Buddy read with Paloma, Chelsea, Jane, & Madalyn! ❤

The Major’s Welcome Home by Tessa Bailey

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“I’m welcoming you home, Major”

It breaks my heart to say this, but this was easily my least favorite Tessa Bailey story so far! I will say that I don’t really like military love interests, or love interests that are as possessive as the one in this story, and I especially don’t like it when they like to be called daddy. Full disclosure and all that; my dad is a Marine and I just can’t, friends, I just can’t. So, I think many people will enjoy this story more than I did, but I really need to just stop trying to make military romances work for me.

Beck – Army Major Mastermind, who is currently dealing with the loss of a friend, and is finally back on US soil after many years away, and plans to stay back home.

Kenna – Daughter of a Lieutenant General, who has put the fear of God into any Army soldier who would touch his daughter, but he has asked her to pick up Beck from the airport. And after she makes some gross jokes about how he probably likes videogames; she realizes that he’s a total hottie and she would be honored to make him a sandwich and maybe welcome him home any way he would like.

You all see where this is going. Beck doesn’t realize who Kenna’s family is right away, but once he does, he is already head over heels for her. And he hasn’t thought of the woman who wrote him a dear john letter a year ago, who he thought he would spend the rest of his life with. Oh, also, Beck is a virgin and has never done anything sexual with anyone before.

I will say that I did like that the guy in this story was a virgin, and I really liked it at the start when he would desperately beg for any contact, but I didn’t love the sex scenes in this book. Now, this might be again because of what I said in the first paragraph with military guys, and daddy kinks, but I also just thought that Beck was too possessive. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good possessive lover, but he was too much, even for my submissive ass. Also, he is very southern and, if you’ve watched a certain booktube video of mine, I don’t really like cow-people/farmers/southern gentlemen/whatever love interests either, and Beck is very much that.

Plus, the sex locations and positions in this were kind of questionable, too. Again, you do whatever is safe and makes you feel good, but her just like going to town while he was walking around the gym? Baby, what are you doing? And right after messing around in a pool? Girl, no. And did you all clean up the gym/therapy equipment after you were humping away? Probably not. Yikes. Also, his first time on an armchair? I don’t know, and I’m not here to ever sex shame, but some questionable choices were made, that’s all I’m saying. Especially when so many other of Tessa’s books have 11/10 sex scenes (and positions and locations) in them!

But we get to see both characters realize that things that happened to them in the past were not their fault, and that they are both deserving of happiness. Sometimes life can just be cruel, whether that means shitty parents, or shitty heartbreak over losing someone you love. And I really did like the dynamic of him being the innocent one, while she was a “bad girl” at the start of this book.

Overall, this one just didn’t work for me. Basically, I would 100% smash Kenna, and 100% pass on Beck, so it left me in a weird reading headspace. Especially when this story started to really take a stereotypical alpha male “omg, I must give you my seed and have all the babies” turn. Again, it makes me sad, because I love Tessa Bailey’s other stuff so much! But this one just really missed the mark for me in so many different ways.

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Content and Trigger Warnings: talk of loss of a loved one, talk of war themes, use of the slur g*psy, talk of heart attacks, and abandonment.

Buddy read with Paloma, Chelsea, Jane, Joce, Emily, & Madalyn! ❤

I read this for SummerAThon! ❤

A Lesson in Thorns (Thornchapel, #1) by Sierra Simone

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“Thornchapel knows my name and the crooked corners of my heart, and it wants me to make promises that I’m going to keep.”

Okay, I’m just going to be real with you all, if you love The Secret History, If We Were Villains, and/or Strange Grace, but wish they were all more sexually explicit? Then this is the book for you. This book is a love letter to polyamory, without ever using the word. This is f/f, m/m, m/f, and a whole lot of sexual group scenes. The atmosphere of all three of those books are the same, and a work of magic that most writers cannot craft, but Sierra Simone delivers and gave me a story that I’ve been waiting for what feels like my whole life for.

This is ownvoices for the queer representation and the narcolepsy representation. I only recall the word bisexual used once by one character (Beckett), but besides that bisexual or pansexual is never used on page (even though, if pansexual is used on page in book two, you will hear me screaming all the way from Vegas, this I swear), but all six characters express sexual attraction to multiple genders, and the author is bisexual. I have seen reviews that state all six characters are bi, but I just believe in my heart that there is no way that all six MGA (multiple gender attraction) characters are bisexual, I’m sorry. And if so, that’s not too inclusive and my pan-self wouldn’t want to read it, to be real honest with you all.

A Lesson in Thorns is a story that follows six characters who stayed at a remote manor, that is falling down, but is filled with secrets, called Thornchapel when they were young. The prologue of this book (which I really recommend you read on Amazon) shows them in the run-down chapel on the estate, where they are performing a fake marriage. And unexpectedly, the bride ends up marrying two grooms. Yet, the actual story starts out many years later, where all six of them are adults, but they all have returned to Thornchapel for one reason or another.

“I want him to be mine. Or I want to deny him the right to ever call me his. I want to heal him and I want to hurt him. All because of one broken kiss.”

Auden – The heir. Pan or bi, and owner of Thornchapel.

Prosperpina/Poe – The dreamer. Pan or bi, narcoleptic, total submissive, and just took a job at Thornchapel in the library, but she is secretly trying to figure out what happened to her mother after a mysterious note is sent to her.

Becket – The priest. Bisexual, and living his life for God.

Rebecca – The genius. Pan or bi, Black, and the Dom of my dreams.

Delphine – The socialite. Pan or bi, plus-sized, Instagram famous, and engaged to Auden.

St. Sebastian – The saint. Pan or bi, biracial (white and Mexican), and feels like he ruins all the lives that he touches.

“he wanted to shelter them from the rain and force them to kneel in the mud too, and he didn’t know what it meant or why it was happening”

And when these six characters get together, and get to re-know each other, secrets unfold and lives change. Even though Poe is the main character, each of these individuals feels completely fleshed out, and each are on their own personal journeys toward happiness, even if the road is very bumpy to get there.

But this is ultimately a book about finding yourself and your acceptance and happiness, even if it feels like your life has already been decided for you, regardless of your wishes and wants. It also showcases the importance of friendships and romantic relationships, and how sometimes those lines can blur, and sometimes they don’t, but sometimes they become something more. Also, I am just really into polyamorous stories right now, and I think that this one is really beautifully done, especially with the chilling atmosphere that leaves so much mystery in the air. This story is truly has so many compelling elements, it was just impossible to put down.

I also want to briefly mention that I really love and value the discussion this book has about the concept of virginity, and what a stupid pedestal so many people place it on. Also, how virginity (and losing it) can mean so much more than a penis going inside a vagina. I really loved how this book handled that, and I love how it completely shattered the stereotype of what it means to lose your virginity. Be still, my queer heart.

Overall, I just love Sierra Simone and I have enjoyed everything I’ve read from her, but A Lesson in Thorns is for sure my favorite. This is such an inclusive novel, from race, sexuality, and social and economic standings. This book also talks about reclaiming your body after someone takes a piece of it, while also discussing that there are so many ways to heal from loss and hurt. And I just think it is so wonderfully done, on top of being one of the sexiest things I’ve read all year. Like, I will never be the same after that spin the bottle scene, holy shit. But I absolutely cannot wait to read Feast of Sparks this summer.

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Content and trigger warnings talk of rape and assault in the past, abandonment, and loss of a loved one.

I read this for #smutathon, which is being hosted by Lainey and Riley! ❤

Buddy read with Riley, Jane, & Paloma! ❤

[EDIT:] Yes, I did drop my rating to four stars. I emailed the author and she was very kind and very respectful, but she did confirm that all six of these characters are for sure bi “but not deeply tied to their labels” for this entire series. I’m going to be probably a little too real with you, but this has been a really rough Pride for me in the book world. In my real life, I am so lucky to be accepted and supported as a pansexual and panromantic woman, but the book world constantly makes me feel like I’m a lesser version of bi and I can’t take it any longer. The fact that I am forced to try so very hard to see myself in literature, to force myself in cutouts that apparently weren’t made for me, and just knowing that authors could so easily give me a breadcrumb of representation without having to do any work what so ever, yet here I am crying over a romance book that refuses to acknowledge my queer existence once again. I’m just tired friends, and I’m fed up, and I can’t believe that I’ve still only read the word pansexual on page in about ten books for my entire life, when I read and review 100+ books a year. I’m sick of being erased, I’m sick of being not enough, and I can’t wait for the day when pan kids don’t have to figure out what pansexual and panromantic mean in their 20’s, because the book world proves over and over that we aren’t worth the representation and that bisexual and biromantic should always be the default for multiple gender attraction characters.